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If a Christian kills someone while defending his family in the process, will God hold that person guilty for taking out someone who would have ended that Christian and the Christian's whole family?

Apparently God didn't hold Moses guilty after killing the Egyptian who was oppressing the Israelite. He still called him to liberate the Israelites from bondage.

Whats the Biblical approach to self defense is not murder?

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    It is better not to suggest hypothetical situations. It is better to state situations which really happened, For example, Jesus himself was effectively murdered and could have summoned a legion of angels to prevent it. But he did not.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 5 at 19:53
  • @NigelJ but a Christian is not capable of what Jesus did Commented Jan 6 at 0:13
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    Indeed, and I have suggested an answer, below.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 6 at 1:37

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It all depends on circumstances and degree of violence.

Jesus says to turn the other cheek if one is slapped on the face when he uses the word ῥαπίζω, rapizo Strong 4474, to slap or smite, Matthew 5:39.

But Paul does not expect his hearers to accept it if someone 'tears their face off', when he uses the word δέρω, dero, Strong 1194, 'to thrash, flay flog or scourge', 2 Corinthians 11:20.

Paul, clearly does not expect his hearers to put up with inordinate personal abuse. He does not recommend a response of disproportionate violence, but he does not expect people to stand there and accept it.


But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. [Matthew 5:39 KJV]

For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. [2 Corinthians 11:20 KJV]


The big difference comes when, as in Jesus' own situation, it is the judicial authorities abusing their powers to do violence unwarrantably or even to murder.

Then one enters the realm of civil dispute, civil uprising and the overthrow of wrongful government, a more complex matter involving the entire population rather than just oneself.

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Is self defense murder in the Christian context?

The short answer is no.

Scriptures allow one to defend oneself, one’s property, one’s family and even one’s country when unlawfully threaten.

If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him. He shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. (Exodus 22:2-3)

There may be some who wrestle with this passage in terms of using lethal force in self-defence, but then Our Lord allows his disciples to carry swords. Why carry swords, if not for self-defence!

And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:36)

Do not forget the Parable of the Thief in the Night! Our Lord explains that if a goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.

43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. - Matthew 24:43

Obviously it is implied that the goodman would have defended his household and property with force if necessary.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. As for me, I will protect my family, those whom God has entrusted to my care—without hesitation. Given the choice to let someone harm my family or take their life, I have decided in my mind that I will do whatever is necessary to neutralize the threat—up to and including deadly force, day or night.

Scriptures never forbid self-defence, and believers are allowed to defend themselves and their families.

Here follows a Catholic perspective on Self-defence:

Ethically the subject of self-defense regards the right of a private person to employ force against any one who unjustly attacks his life or person, his property or good name. While differing among themselves on some of the more subtle and less practical points comprised in this topic, our moralists may be said to be unanimous on the main principles and their application regarding the right of self-defense. The teaching may be summarized as follows:

Defence of life and person

Everyone has the right to defend his life against the attacks of an unjust aggressor. For this end he may employ whatever force is necessary and even take the life of an unjust assailant. As bodily integrity is included in the good of life, it may be defended in the same way as life itself. It must be observed however that no more injury may be inflicted on the assailant than is necessary to defeat his purpose. If, for example, he can be driven off by a call for help or by inflicting a slight wound on him, he may not lawfully be slain. Again the unjust attack must be actually begun, at least morally speaking, not merely planned or intended for some future time or occasion. generally speaking one is not bound to preserve one's own life at the expense of the assailant's; one may, out of charity, forego one's right in the matter. Sometimes, however, one may be bound to defend one's own life to the utmost on account of one's duty of state or other obligations. The life of another person may be defended on the same conditions by us as our own. For since each person has the right to defend his life unjustly attacked, what he can lawfully do through his own efforts he may also do through the agency of others. Sometimes, too, charity, natural affection, or official duty imposed the obligation of defending others. A father ought, for example, to defend the lives of his children; a husband, his wife; and all ought to defend the life of one whose death would be a serious loss to the community. Soldiers, policemen, and private guards hired for that purpose are bound in justice to safeguard the lives of those entrusted to them.

Defence of property

It is lawful to defend one's material goods even at the expense of the agressor's life; for neither justice nor charity require that one should sacrifice possessions, even though they be of less value than human life in order to preserve the life of a man who wantonly exposes it in order to do an injustice. Here, however, we must recall the principle that in extreme necessity every man has a right to appropriate whatever is necessary to preserve his life. The starving man who snatches a meal is not an unjust agressor; consequently it is not lawful to use force against him. Again, the property which may be defended at the expense of the agressor's life must be of considerable value; for charity forbids that in order to protect ourselves from a trivial loss we should deprive a neighbor of his life. Thefts or robberies, however, of small values are to be considered not in their individual, but in their cumulative, aspect. A thief may be slain in the act of carrying away stolen property provided that it cannot be recovered from him by any other means; if, for example, he can be made to abandon his spoil through fright, then it would not be lawful to shoot him. If he has carried the goods away to safety he cannot then be killed in order to recover them; but the owner may endeavor to take them from him, and if the thief resists with violence he may be killed in self-defence.

Honour

Since it is lawful to take life in the legitimate defense of one's material goods, it is evidently also lawful to do so in defense of chastity which is a good of a much higher order. With regard to honor or reputation, it is not lawful to kill one to prevent an insult or an attack upon our reputation which we believe he intends, or threatens. Nor may we take a life to avenge an insult already offered. The proceeding would not be defense of our honor or reputation, but revenge. Besides, in the general estimation honor and reputation may be sufficiently protected without taking the life of the offender.

St. Thomas Aquinas has the following to say about self-defence:

Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention. Now moral acts take their species according to what is intended, and not according to what is beside the intention, since this is accidental as explained above (II-II:43:3; I-II:12:1). Accordingly the act of self-defense may have two effects, one is the saving of one's life, the other is the slaying of the aggressor. Therefore this act, since one's intention is to save one's own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in "being," as far as possible. And yet, though proceeding from a good intention, an act may be rendered unlawful, if it be out of proportion to the end. Wherefore if a man, in self-defense, uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repel force with moderation his defense will be lawful, because according to the jurists [Cap. Significasti, De Homicid. volunt. vel casual.], "it is lawful to repel force by force, provided one does not exceed the limits of a blameless defense." Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense in order to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's. But as it is unlawful to take a man's life, except for the public authority acting for the common good, as stated above (Article 3), it is not lawful for a man to intend killing a man in self-defense, except for such as have public authority, who while intending to kill a man in self-defense, refer this to the public good, as in the case of a soldier fighting against the foe, and in the minister of the judge struggling with robbers, although even these sin if they be moved by private animosity. - Whether it is lawful to kill a man in self-defence?

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  • "Why carry swords if not for self defense?" The answer is right after the command: it was to fulfill the prophecy that He would be numbered with the transgressors (not that they should be transgressors). Two swords were enough to fulfill that requirement, but there is no way that they would be enough for twelve men to defend themselves with deadly force.
    – Conrado
    Commented Jan 8 at 7:10
  • As for the parable of the goodman and his house, there is no implication of deadly force, and beside, it is a parable, meant to convey a spiritual truth using natural elements in a story--not an explanation of how to defend private property.
    – Conrado
    Commented Jan 8 at 7:22
  • It is telling that these are the closest of any of Jesus' teachings to being license to defend one's self or one's stuff. Indeed, in Luke 22, a few lines later in vs 50-51, a disciple used one of the selfsame swords that they had shown him earlier, to defend the Lord himself, and Jesus said "no more of this!" (and by other accounts, he added that they who live by the sword would die by it too).
    – Conrado
    Commented Jan 8 at 7:36
  • @Conrado Abraham smote 4 kingdoms to rescue Lot. Commented Jan 19 at 22:40
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Few people equate killing in self defense with murder. However, there are indeed Christian contexts where self defense is considered to violate the commandment against killing. Moreover, a number of the early Church Fathers held that Christ had commanded his disciples not to participate in killing of any kind.

Today, this is a minority view. But Christians do sometimes hold the opinion that even to take another's life while defending oneself violates one of the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:13

You shall not kill

One Christian context which opposes killing even in self-defense was Anabaptism. This denomination insisted that killing another human is a sin regardless of circumstances, and Jesus meant what he said when he taught “Do not resist an evildoer” (Matthew 5:59). They were severely persecuted for refusing to participate in war. Quakers, some Methodists and early Pentecostals also practiced this form of Christian pacifism. Some still do so

Conclusion: Few if any would accuse someone of "murder" for acting in self-defense. However, a substantial minority do hold that their Christian conscience, informed by both the Ten Commandments and the teaching of Jesus, does not allow them to kill, even in self defense.

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  • If you let him go, he will go, regroup and come back with a deadlier force thatay end you or your family. God defended his throne with a sword. Commented Jan 7 at 7:49
  • +1 for "Jesus meant what he said." WRT this particular teaching, perhaps it would be helpful, for the sake of those looking for finer shades or further reading, to clarify that some (parts) of the groups that you mentioned teach pacifism, and some teach non resistance.
    – Conrado
    Commented Jan 8 at 8:09

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